January 17, 2016

Ten Years Later: GI Go Fund Celebrates a Decade of Supporting America’s Veterans

What started as a local community effort has swelled into a national organization that has assisted thousands of military veterans and brought communities together from coast to coast in support of our nation’s heroes

The GI Go Fund featured on ABC's Secret Millionaire

NEWARK, NJ - On January 17th, 2006, a group of friends set out on a simple journey: to honor their friend Lt. Seth Dvorin, who enlisted in the Army and made the ultimate sacrifice for his country by showing their gratitude to his fellow service members who came home. While they did provide military veterans with days of relaxation as a way of saying thanks, what developed was a discovery that military veterans needed so much more: employment assistance, connections to critical benefits, emergency financial support, and access to housing.

These were the daunting tasks that faced the co-founders of The GI Go Fund, but one that they were determined to perform so they could sufficiently honor their fallen friend.

“We had to do it for him,” said Jack Fanous, Executive Director and co-founder of the GI Go Fund. “He was the one among us that served. He was the one who sacrificed everything for us and his country. We may not have set out to tackle so many problems when we first started, but we knew that it was the only way we could truly pay tribute to Seth.”

"Out of tragedy the GI Go Fund was created, dedicated to fulfilling the needs of our soldiers who have served and are serving our nation,” said Sue Niederer, mother of Seth Dvorin. “On the GI Go Fund’s 10th anniversary, I want to personally thank the founders Jack Fanous, James Fanous and Alex Manis for their dedication, devotion, and perseverance. The organization was founded in memory of my son Lt. Seth Dvorin, who gave his life serving in Iraq while sparing the lives of 18 fellow soldiers. His memory and legacy will continue on through the efforts of the GI Go Fund. As a mother who has lost her son, I am proud to say that Jack, James, and Alex have become like sons to me. Seth's legacy will continue on through their efforts and the accomplishments of the Fund. I am so proud and thankful for all of their achievements.”

Seth Dvorin, the Army Lieutenant the organization was founded in honor of.

Since its founding, this organization has been able to achieve so many things for veterans all across the country. They have hosted numerous career events like Job Fairs and Career Mentorships that have paired hundreds of employers with countless veterans from Newark, NJ to San Diego, CA. They have worked with lawmakers to help revolutionize the VA system to better care for our veterans. They have improved the way veterans are treated in the criminal justice system, as well as forge terrific partnerships with lawfirms to provide pro bono services to low income veterans. And they were able to create an historic partnership with then Newark Mayor and current US Senator Cory Booker to provide essential services to veterans in the city.

The organization has received tremendous recognition for their support of veterans, having been featured on CNN, Fox News, and other news outlets on numerous occasions. In addition, their work with homeless veterans in the city of Newark was featured on the hour-long ABC reality show “Secret Millionaire”.

“These past years, the level of attention we have received for our work and the people we have worked with to improve the lives of veterans, it is truly humbling,” said Deputy Director Alex Manis. “From legislators like Senators Menendez and Booker to great companies like PSEG and Panasonic, we have been very fortunate to have partnered with such amazing organizations and people to help us reach and support more veterans.”

While the work of the organization has helped so many veterans and their loved ones over the years, none of these great things would be possible without the great work of our supporters from all across the country, most notably through our Jeans for Troops drive. Through this nationwide fundraiser, held twice a year in honor of Memorial Day and Veterans Day, people working at companies and schools contribute $5 to the GI Go Fund as they wear Jeans to work to show their support to our mission of supporting veterans. Since this drive began in 2011, millions of supporters have participated in the drive, helping our organization reach incredible levels of success. The organization has also had great success through fundraising at its annual Veterans Day Gala, as well as through other fundraising drives and program grants.

“The support of these great people has been amazing,” said Communications Director James Fanous. “From New York to Ohio to Texas to California, schools and business have gone above and beyond to show their support for our efforts. And thanks to these great employees, as well as great organizations like Foodtown, Johnson & Johnson, the Kessler Foundation, WithumSmith+Brown, Day Pitney, Carl Sandburg Middle School, and so many more, we will be heading into the next decade with full force, ready to tackle any challenges our returning veterans face.”

Jack Fanous, Executive Director of GI Go Fund, and Cory Booker, current US Senator from New Jersey, who forged an historic partnership with GI Go Fund in Newark, NJ while Booker was Mayor.

In addition, the group has had great fundraising success through the Steps for Vets program, which was started by Seth’s uncle Gary Sapir at Carl Sandburg Middle School involving all the students and faculty raising over $50,000 for the organization, the most raised by any one school for a cause in the country.

“The GI Go Fund, founded 10 years ago, has dedicated itself to enhancing and reclaiming the lives of veterans and remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Sapir. “Promoting legislation, creating job fairs, providing housing and shelter are but a few of the Fund’s ongoing programs. Their mission and achievements continue to grow. I, as the uncle of Lt. Seth Dvorin, in whose memory the GI Go Fund was founded, commend founders Jack Fanous, James Fanous, and Alex Manis. Their dedication and devotion to this cause is unparalleled.”

As the organization looks to the next ten years, they will be work to improve the services that veterans receive in employment, housing, legal aide, and VA benefits. They will work to expand their operations in new locations throughout the country, as well as work to nurture veteran entrepreneurship through the development of incubator space for veteran small businesses. Most of all, they will ensure that every veteran in America is made aware of the organization, its mission, and how we can assist them and their loved ones.

“We have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us,” said Jack Fanous. “We have grown exponentially since our first day, working with terrific organizations and amazing people to help our returning veterans. But the work is far from over. No veteran should be without a steady job. No veteran should be forced to live on the streets. And no veteran should struggle getting the care they have earned from the VA. These are issues that still plague the veteran community, and I, as well as all of us at the GI Go Fund, will remain committed and vigilant in helping all of our veterans in need from facing any of these challenges. It is our mission, and one that we are proud to carry into the next ten years.”